The Open Window
When the body of journalism professor Joseph Teller is found outside his office building on the Minton State University campus, questions are raised as to whether he fell or committed suicide. Both seem plausible since the open window in his office sits very low, and he lost his wife to cancer a little over a year ago.
Kate Cameron, a retired police officer and current real estate broker, gets involved when her boyfriend, editor of the local paper and former student of Teller's, asks her to investigate the death in order to make certain the truth is revealed. She soon discovers there are a number of less obvious reasons for Teller's death.
Adding to Kate's woes, Bianca Fitzsimmons, a loose-cannon student intern on the paper, interferes in the investigation, although she sometimes seems more interested in having a romantic relationship with Kate's boyfriend. As the investigation proceeds, Kate finds that she must not only reevaluate the evidence concerning Teller's death but also her own personal life.
“Professor Teller is dead,” he announced in the low controlled voice he used when upset.
Teller had been his journalism instructor when he was an undergraduate at Minton State University here in Minton, Massachusetts. He had been Daniel’s mentor and the determining influence that had sent him on to a career in journalism. Daniel had majored in English with a minor in journalism, graduating from Minton State five years ahead of me. I’d majored in criminal justice with a minor in English. I’d figured it would help me with those police reports.
“I’m sorry. I know you were close. What did he die of?”
“He fell from his office window.”
“Fell?” In my experience as a cop, people rarely fell from windows. Usually, there was some intentionality involved, like a helpful shove.
Daniel gave a sarcastic laugh. “Yeah, that’s the question, isn’t it? Did he fall, jump, or get pushed?”
“Sometimes an accident is just an accident,” I said doubtfully.
“Teller wasn’t disabled or senile. He’d been in that office for decades. What are the odds that he fell?”
“What are the odds that he jumped? Didn’t you tell me his wife had just died a year or so ago? Maybe he was depressed.”
“I talked to him within the last two weeks, and he didn’t sound despondent.”
“Sorrow is the sort of thing that can come in waves.”
Daniel grunted his disbelief.
“When did this happen?”
“About twenty minutes ago. I got a call from Bianca. She’s on the scene, but the police won’t let her into the building.”
Bianca Fitzsimmons had been the regular crime reporter—if you could call her that—for the past three months on The Sentinel, the newspaper Daniel published fours days a week. His staff was part-time, except for an office manager, and Bianca was actually a journalism student at Minton State. I’d never met her in person, but I wasn’t surprised she couldn’t get past the police at a crime scene; even a veteran reporter would have been stopped.
“I was hoping that you could go there and try to get in. Detective Harrington no doubt will be in charge, and he owes you. After all, you saved his wife’s life when you were on the force.”
It was my turn to grunt. I didn’t like to trade on what I did during my time as a cop.
“I’m not a reporter, I’m a real estate agent. What would be my reason for wanting access to the crime scene?”
“How about I make you a reporter for this one story? You do some of the heavy investigating, and Bianca writes the copy.”
“You know I’ve avoided being involved with the department since my retirement. This would throw me right into the middle of an ongoing police investigation.”
Daniel cleared his throat. “I know, and I’m sorry to ask this of you, Kate, but Teller was important to me. I really want to find out how he died.”